England, hit by injuries to key
players, are still favourites to start their World Cup
qualifying campaign with a win against Moldova in Chisinau on
Defender Ashley Cole, who would have won his 99th England
cap on Friday, and striker Andy Carroll were the latest players
to withdraw from the squad after being injured at the weekend,
and while Cole should return for next Tuesday's game against
Ukraine at Wembley, Carroll is likely to be out for six weeks.
Other absentees include striker Wayne Rooney and midfielder
Scott Parker, but England will go into the Group H match in good
spirits following their 2-1 friendly win over Italy in Berne
Apart from losing on a penalty shootout to Italy in the
quarter-finals of Euro 2012 in June, England manager Roy Hodgson
is unbeaten in seven matches over 90 minutes since taking over
on May 1.
And with England improbably ranked third in FIFA's world
rankings, compared to Moldova's 141st, anything other than an
England win will be a major surprise.
In an online debate with fans on Tuesday night, the coach
was asked whether he had had the chance to pick his ideal
starting line-up yet because of so many injuries.
Hodgson, 65, said: "Maybe not, we've been hampered by
injuries to very important players. We lost Gareth Barry and
Frank Lampard, for example, before the Euros, and Wayne Rooney
wasn't available for the first couple of games.
"In the Italian game I decided to leave out one or two of
the obvious senior players who I thought would have been
important during the qualifiers.
"I don't think that I've been able to pick an ideal team as
there have always been some important players missing."
Even with their injuries, England should repeat their wins
over Moldova in the qualifiers for the 1998 World Cup, when
England won 3-0 in Moldova in September 1996 and 4-0 at Wembley
a year later.
Moldova have never qualified for the World Cup and have won
only two of the 38 qualifiers they have played. They have not
won any of their past 13 over the past seven years.
Their record in the recent qualifying competition for the
European Championship was not much better: they won three and
lost seven of their 10 games, but two of those wins were against
San Marino and the other a 2-0 victory over Finland.
Moldovan coach Ion Caras told the website moldova.sports.md
on Wednesday: "We do have confidence in our strength and our
chance - however, this is slimmer than England's."
San Marino, Poland, Ukraine and Montenegro complete the
make-up of Group H.
Although Rooney and Carroll are out of the side, England
have plenty of attacking options.
Jermain Defoe, who should make his 50th appearance for
England, should lead the line, with either Daniel Sturridge,
Danny Welbeck or Theo Walcott in support.
Defoe came on as a substitute and scored the winner in
England's 2-1 victory over Italy in Berne, his 16th goal for his
Berlin will stage Champions League final for the first time in 2015
Borussia Dortmund's Mario Gotze ruled out of Champions League final against Bayern Munich
Manchester United centre-back Rio Ferdinand signs one-year contract
Malaga coach Manuel Pellegrini will leave the La Liga club at the end of the current season
Ten years on, the legends speak to FFT
Your questions answered by an A to Z of legends
He's here, he's there, he's...
The cost of Premier League away travel
Nike CR7 IX for you
FourFourTwo is brought to you by Haymarket Consumer Media & FourFourTwo is part of Haymarket Sport
| International Licensing | © Haymarket Media Group 2010